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Wendy’s Goes in Search of ‘Waaaay Better’ Advertising

[UPDATE July 29: Wendy's selected Kaplan Thaler Group as it new agency of record. Other finalists were incumbent Kirshenbaum Bond + Partners; The Martin Agency; Bartle Bogle Hegarty; and Venables Bell & Partners. Wendy's said it will launch an "integrated communications campaign and a new advertising direction" during the fourth quarter.] waay1Seeking to halt its march toward irrelevance, Wendy’s International has thrown its national advertising agency assignments up for review. Current creative agency of record Kirshenbaum Bond + Partners, New York City, has been invited to participate.

Kirshenbaum Bond created the “It’s waaaay better than fast food” campaign that debuted in February 2008. It replaced the much criticized red-wig campaign, created by Saatchi & Saatchi (which had succeeded McCann Erickson only a year earlier). Consumers thought the campaign creepy, but, worst of all, Wendy’s franchisees hated it as an affront to beloved founder Dave Thomas (Wendy’s dad), the brand and their business. Although Wendy’s sales have been decent behind Kirshenbaum Bond’s advertising over the past year, the company’s overhauled management team may want an agency partner of its own choosing. Wendy’s Chief Marketing Officer Ken Calwell, who joined the company from Domino’s last July, will lead the agency review.pigtail

Wendy’s, the No. 3 burger chain behind McDonald’s and Burger King, spent approximately $400 million on measured-media advertising last year. Dublin, Ohio-based Wendy’s said in a release that the first phase of its marketing reevaluation will be to select a lead agency “to integrate the brand’s advertising, media planning, digital and restaurant activation.” After that the company will “focus on multi-cultural marketing, media buying and public relations.” Publicis Groupe’s MediaVest now handles Wendy’s media buying.

The agency selected will be asked to implement “a clear brand strategy and aligned business objectives.” Other mandates are to overhaul market testing and R&D and create a new-product pipeline. Does this sound like a brand in  need of help? The chain hasn’t had a talked-about new product since the Baconator burger. Wendy’s says it will launch a new signature burger later this year.

Ken Calwell

Ken Calwell

The $2.3 billion acquisition of Wendy’s by quick-service rival Arby’s has made for some awkward positioning between the two siblings. Isn’t “Waaaay better than fast food,” a dig at Arby’s? How can Arby’s talk about greasy burgers and promote its Roastburger play-pretend burgers without insulting Wendy’s? The Arby’s brand could use some marketing help of its own. Same-store sales for company units declined a staggering 10.6% in 2008. Wendy’s did waaaay better, thank you: same-store sales were up 3.6%.

A new advertising/marketing partner will be asked to help Wendy’s figure out what to do about breakfast. The chain fumbled badly when it expanded testing of a breakfast menu only to put on the brakes earlier this year and return to the testing lab. It says it hopes to relaunch breakfast in 2011. Here’s some advice for the new agency: Friends don’t let friends market “frescuit” breakfast sandwiches.

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